Westmoreland Tankard Road Race 27th May

by Adam Baines 

Today saw Tom (Hanlon), John (Bamford) and me take on The Westmorland Tankard. A 3rd and 4th Category race run on the Old Hutton Course. I’ve had mixed luck on this course over the years…

My first attempt was in my first season of racing and back in the days of CDNW. I got dropped pretty quickly. However, I did stay to watch the rest of the racing and witnessed a certain, now world tour, rider destroy the E/1/2 race and win by half a lap!
Second attempt was a bit better finishing in the bunch and third attempt was a disaster with a mechanical and another DNF.
But despite all this, I love this course. It’s got one decent climb in it up to the finish followed by a rolling section. The only flattish roads are on a really exposed part and today it was windy. After getting my backside handed to me last week at Bashall Eaves I was keen to put that to bed. IN the car park at race HQ I bumped into BamBam (John) who was looking a little bleary eyed! This course would normally suit him but, by all accounts, his daughters Birthday Party in the sun had given all the adults the perfect excuse to wash their BBQ sausages down with copious amounts of ale. Well, why not!??
After the race briefing Tom and I had a discussion about what we could do tactically. Tom’s had a great start to the season and this week gained his 2 nd Cat licence. this meant that, although he’s still allowed to race in a 3 rd /4 th Cat race, he wouldn’t be eligible for any points should he place. So Tom kindly offered his services to the elder statesman desperately in need of some points. The plan was hatched……..

First lap sit; in and let the strong looking lads chase the early breaks.
Second lap; Tom was to hit the front at the bottom of the climb and go as hard as he could (which is hard) all the way to the top. Hoping we would drop most of the field.
The plan worked brilliantly, first time up the climb was comfortable and a few early breaks got chased down before anything started to look dangerous. Second lap same again until we hit the foot of the climb. As the road started to rise I found myself in a good position near the front but I couldn’t see Tom. The pace had already been fairly high so I guessed he didn’t fancy it. I was wrong. Very wrong. Tom came flying past straight on to the front and drilled it, I mean proper drilled it. If I’d had the breath to shout ‘knock a rev off’ I would!

The field was shredded, Tom had put half the bunch in trouble and I’m guessing our own John B was in that half. I very nearly lost it too but I sank my teeth into my bars and just about hung on. Facing 3 more times up the climb I decided I’d ask Tom not to do that again until the last lap.

The next few laps followed the same template as the first. 1 or 2 lads would get away but get brought back on the big climb into the headwind. There were a lot of strong lads riding today and it would take an incredible ride to get away and stay away. I decided to sit in and wait for the last lap.
I looked to find Tom and hatch plan part 2. I was shocked to see he’d gone! I was thinking his attack was hard but he can’t have emptied himself! I was right, he hadn’t been dropped but hit one of the many man size potholes and shifted his front brake into a position whereby he no longer had a front brake. The Old Hutton curse strikes again!
So I was left to fend for myself. Last lap and the pace dropped to a leisurely café ride as everyone prepared themselves for the last climb. If only we still had Tom! Predictably the gas was turned on when we hit the climb for the final time. As we hit the last 500m there were about 15 of us left.

At this point the road kicks up again and a few started the sprint early, I tried to follow but didn’t go all out because I thought it was too early. I was wrong again! The lads who’d gone early held on with Marcus Cram from Blaydon CC taking a fine win. I managed to hang on but lost a few places to cross the line in 10 th place wondering if I could have gone with the group who contested the win. But that’s why these courses are so great, your placing is most likely to be an accurate measure of your
strength on the day.

Thanks so much to Steve Gove and all at Kent Valley CC for putting on this brilliant event, the NEG riders, Commissaires, Accredited marshals and marshals who did an excellent job making us all feel safe throughout the race.

And of course, to Ellen Isherwood who once again has captured the day so brilliantly.

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